In ancient Mesoamerican rituals, amaranth took on a central role, often crafted into ornate effigies of deities, particularly the goddess Chicomecoatl (“Seven Serpent”), symbolizing fertility and abundance. These edible idols, known as Tzoalli, were often combined with honey, nuts, & seeds to be part of ceremonial feasts, emphasizing the cyclical nature of life, death, and rebirth. In modern times these treats are found in mercaditos all throughout Mexico by the name “Alegría” (Spanish for “joy”)
The Spanish conquest attempted to suppress the cultivation of amaranth due to its connection with indigenous spirituality, but its resilience mirrored that of the culture itself. Today, amaranth continues to be a cherished crop, second only to maíz (corn), not only for its nutritional value but also for the reminder it carries of ancient wisdom, resilience, and the enduring spirit of Mesoamerican traditions. In amaranth, we find a grain that tells the story of a people’s reliance on nature’s gifts and their deep-rooted connection to the cycles of life.
These peanut butter chocolate amaranth bars are a modern take on the traditional Tzoalli bars you find at the open air markets in Mexico. Utilizing native ingredients like peanuts, pecans, chia seeds, cherries & creamy chocolate to create a protein packed nutritious alternative to your typical peanut butter crispy chocolate candy bars.
Ingredients:2 cups popped amaranth
1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped*
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped*
2 tablespoons Nutiva Chia Seeds
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons Nutiva Butter Flavored Coconut Oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup Nutiva Chocolate Coconut Spread
Optional garnishes: popped amaranth, marigold flower petals, more chia seeds, chopped pecans or dried cherries
Prepare your pan: Line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper & set aside.
In a large bowl combine popped amaranth (If popping your own, follow the directions below), cherries, chia seeds and pecans and set aside.
In a separate medium bowl mix brown rice syrup, peanut butter, & Nutiva butter flavored coconut oil until smooth. Pour this mixture into a small pot & heat over medium heat until bubbly, about 3-5 minutes, while stirring often. Add the salt and extract at this point. Do not let it overcook. Remove immediately once it bubbles and pour a little bit of the mixture at a time into the bowl of amaranth, dried cherries, chia seeds and pecans, making sure to stir the mixture with a spatula to coat every grain evenly. Press this mixture into the parchment lined pan until smooth, flat and tightly compressed. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
After it has chilled for an hour, spread a generous layer of Nutiva Chocolate Coconut spread, sprinkle with marigold petals, popped amaranth, etc. and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 2 hours or until firm.
Once firm, remove from the pan and cut into 6 or 8 squares.
How to pop your own amaranth seeds:
-small pot with tall sides and a heavy bottom
-clear lid for the pot
Preheat your pot over medium to medium high heat depending on the thickness of the pot. The pot should be hot enough to pop amaranth in a few seconds but not so hot that it burns. Test the heat of the pan with a few drops of water. If it evaporates right away, it is ready. Add one tablespoon of amaranth to the pan and let the seeds puff. Swirl or shake the pot around to evenly distribute the seeds. Keep a lid on to keep the seeds from popping out of your pan. Transfer puffed grains to your bowl immediately. Wait a few seconds for the pan to get hot again and work on the next batch. Only one tablespoon at a time is recommended. Any more and you’re likely to scorch the seeds. Adjust the heat as necessary until you find the sweet spot! Then just keep working in batches until you get your flow and rhythm down. Allow to cool before transferring to a jar with a tight fitting lid. 1 cup of amaranth seed will yield about 3 cups of popped amaranth. Discard any burnt seeds as they can add a bitter taste to your bars.
By Chef Denise Vallejo of @alchemyorganica in celebration of Indigenous People's Day.